By KBB.com Editors
Attempting to bolster its image – and drive a whole new generation of performance-oriented buyers back into its dealerships – GM's self-proclaimed excitement division last year added the G8 sport sedan to its U.S. lineup. Built in Australia and based on the popular Holden Commodore model, Pontiac's new flagship is its first rear-wheel-drive sedan in several years and is available in three trim levels, a V6-powered standard model, the sporty V8-powered GT and, for 2009, an all new high-performance GXP trim with a proper six-speed manual transmission. The G8's aggressive appearance, impressive array of features, superb handling dynamics and attractive pricing should also help it appeal to those who might want something with the performance and feel of a European sport sedan but at a lower price.
Anyone looking for a car that matches the classic charms of a rear-drive full-size four-door with a 21st-century approach to perfYou May Not Like This Car If...
Sticklers for ergonomic detailing may quibble with the positioning of some of the minor control switchgear in the G8's interior. While its standard OnStar system provides for proprietary hands-free calling and Turn-by-Turn navigation, there's no stand-alone navigation system.What's New for 2009
A high-performance GXP trim joins the lineup and XM Satellite Radio is made standard on all models. OnStar 8.0 now features Bluetooth hands-free connectivity (late availability).Driving It Driving Impressions
Based on GM's newest global rear-drive platform (which will also underpin the upcoming 2010 Chevrolet Camaro), the G8 has a dynamic character that's more in line with a premium European sport sedan than a domestic four-door model. Whether you opt for the electrifying acceleration of the GT or prefer the more economical but still impressively quick base version, the G8's fully independent sport suspension is tuned to deliver a great combination of control and comfort that works as well on the freeway as it does on your favorite twisty two-lane highway. The G8's variable-ratio power steering feels positive and linear, and its anti-lock disc brakes slow it with confidence – particularly the larger units used on the GT. Toss in near-ideal weight distribution, driver-selectable stability and traction controls and multi-mode automatic transmissions, and either of these Pontiac sedans has the tools to deliver performance that will impress even the most demanding enthusiast.
Active Fuel Management System
Complementing its outstanding power and torque characteristics, the GT's 6.0-liter V8 also is fitted with Active Fuel Management, a computer-controlled mileage-optimizing system that allows seamless transitions from eight-cylinder to four-cylinder operation under lighter load conditions.
Driver Shift Control
Both of the G8's automatic transmissions incorporate tri-mode Driver Shift Control circuitry. In addition to "normal" and more-aggressive "sport" programming, each has a manual-style gate that lets the driver select a gear that is then held until the driver shifts, even if that's at the engine's redline.
Purposeful and understated, the G8's spacious cabin reflects its athletic personality in charcoal and grey tones (or optional charcoal and red leather) set off by brushed-aluminum-look accents. Main control layouts are good, the white-on-black gauges and red LCD readouts are legible and the supplemental switchgear is generally arrayed in a user-friendly manner. Highlighting the G8's features are well-bolstered, power-adjustable front bucket seats that provide excellent comfort and support, whether covered in standard cloth or available leather. The expansive rear bench can easily and comfortably accommodate a pair of six-footers or take three average-sized adults on shorter treks, while its cavernous 17.5-cubic-feet trunk handles suitcases and golf bags with equal ease.
The 2009 Pontiac G8 makes a powerful but tasteful visual statement, complementing neatly tailored bodywork with prominently flared fenders, a modest decklid spoiler, integrated side sills and functional cooling vents on its hood and front flanks. The face is pure Pontiac, highlighted by projector-beam headlamps, a signature dual-port grille treatment and an equally bold lower air intake. Both G8's wear 18-inch alloy wheels and 245/45 tires, although all-season rubber is replaced by a stickier, summer-spec alternative on the GT. Rear details also differ slightly. The V6 has conventional red taillamps and dual chrome exhaust tips while the appropriately-badged GT gets clear lens covers and a quartet of chrome tailpipes.
Apart from their respective drivetrain differences, both G8 models share a common and comprehensive array of power assists, a steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons on a tilt and telescoping column, trip computer, anti-lock disc brakes, StabiliTrak stability control and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags. All G8's also come with a one-year subscription to OnStar's Safe and Sound service. The base car has single-zone air conditioning and a seven-speaker Blaupunkt AM/FM/CD/audio package with iPod/MP3 input and XM Satellite Radio, while the GT has dual-zone climate control and a more powerful 11-speaker sound system with a six-disc CD changer.
The well-equipped G8 offers relatively few extras. Base-model buyers can opt for the Comfort and Sound Package, which includes dual-zone automatic climate control and the upgraded Blaupunkt audio with six-disc CD changer of the GT model. Either G8 can be ordered with a power sunroof or the Premium Package, which includes heated and six-way power front seats, leather upholstery and trim and a fold-down rear armrest with trunk pass-through. GT buyers can also choose the Sport Package, consisting of metallic pedals, split-spoke machine-faced aluminum wheels, sport steering wheel and 19-inch wheels with 245/40WR19 performance tires.Under the Hood
Each G8 model gets a unique engine and transmission combination. The entry-level matchup is a 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission, while the GT comes with a 361-horsepower, 6.0-liter V8 backed by a six-speed automatic. Both transmissions feature multi-mode Driver Shift Control programming, but only the V8 also has GM's Active Fuel Management system to help bolster its operating efficiency in cruise mode. Even the base G8 V6 is an energetic performer, capable of accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in a brisk 7.8 seconds, yet EPA-rated at 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. But the GT is the real star here. It can nail that acceleration benchmark in a scant 5.3 seconds while earning relatively respectable 15 mpg city, 24 mpg highway ratings from the EPA.
256 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
361 horsepower @ 5300 rpm
385 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/24
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a Pontiac G8 runs from just under $28,000 for a V6 to slightly over $31,000 for the V8-powered GT. Pontiac is touting the GT as the most powerful car you can buy in America for under $30,000 and, even fully loaded, it will still be less than $35,000. Those numbers – especially the GT's – make this pair quite attractive on initial price, but the long-term picture is a somewhat mixed bag. Although the GT is projected to fare slightly better than the V6, the retained-value percentages on both G8s are expected to be somewhat lower than comparable versions of the Dodge Charger in SXT and HEMI-engined SRT8 trim levels. Conversely, the residuals of either version of the G8 should marginally exceed those of the Nissan Maxima in SE or SL versions.